The reason behind Turkey’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, despite U.S. and NATO officials’ objections and the threat of sanctions, is the new foreign policy path President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to take, said Bülent Aras, a senior fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center in Istanbul.
“He takes a military-realist or a hard power turn in foreign policy depending on domestic political rivalries, regional security challenges, and the international situation,” Aras said.
U.S. officials say the S-400 is incompatible with U.S. and NATO defences and have repeatedly threatened Turkey with sanctions that can be imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and expulsion from the U.S.’ F-35 fighter jet programme if it installs the Russian system.
Despite the threats of sanctions that will hit Turkey’s already slumping economy hard, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) support the new foreign policy strategy, saying it will result in a more independent Turkey in the international arena, Aras said.
“According to Erdogan, the new foreign policy, with its elements of military brinkmanship, will raise Turkey’s regional and international profile to a new level,” he said.
Yet, the sustainability of Erdoğan’s aggressive foreign policy and Turkey’s durability against its adverse effects will be tested in the next months, he added.